180 High Street once The Old English Gentleman

John Roadley

Construction of the Old English Gentleman

Located on the corner of High Street and London Road on the site of a windmill which burned down in 1833, The Old English Gentleman was built about 1839.

It is reputed that the builders started the construction too close to the verge of the highway and Parson Metcalfe of Fowlmere was passing by and noticed this. He told the builders that they would have to demolish the walls they had already started and move them further back. This they had to do and, being annoyed, they threatened to call the pub ‘The Meddlesome Parson.’ However, when they received praise from the Vicar for the standard of their workmanship, they relented and decided on ‘The Old English Gentleman.’

In Dec 1844 the Cambridge Chronicle & Journal advertised the ‘Auction of the newly-built Old English Gentleman pub, together with 3 acres land and a cottage’. 1845 and 1863 auction adverts describe the pub as being of brick and tile construction, having a taproom, bar, large parlour, cellar, kitchen, 5 bedrooms, yard, sheds, plumber’s workshop, garden, brick & tile stable, detached cottage with gardens and arable land let to Messrs. Jordan & Tuck. The pub remained very much as originally built until 1938 (although many of the out-buildings had disappeared). The pub owners were the Star Brewery of Cambridge and they put ground floor extensions on either side of the building and ground and first floor extensions to the rear to give the building the shape that remains today.

On the side wall of the Old English Gentleman you can still find a benchmark (in 2017), shown in one photo, put there by the Ordnance Survey when they were doing surveying in the 1880s.

Starting life as a beer house

Starting life as a beer-house in 1839, it didn’t get its wine and spirit licence until 100 years later as reported in the local press:

The landlord of the Old English Gentleman at Harston said trade had increased and 101 new houses had been built nearby. There were plans for alterations with a car park for 30 cars. It had a slate club paying money in sick pay and a darts club where players were accompanied by female relatives who did not drink beer but asked for ‘short drinks’ he was not allowed to sell. He had to refuse the sale of four or five bottles of gin or whisky on a Saturday. But the licensee of the Coach and Horses said there were already four fully licensed premises for a population of 1,000. If you pooled all their takings in wine and spirits no tenant would get a living – brewers only allowed a margin of sixpence on a bottle of whisky. 

Whilst not in the heart of the village, its location at the junction of what was the main road to London and what became the main road to London gave it much passing trade. Also about the time of its opening, coprolite digging was starting on nearby lands stretching to Haslingfield and coprolite diggers were notorious for the thirsts!  This report from  Cambridge Independent Press of Feb 6 1864

Mr Gilby (a young man), Master of the Harston Fossil Pits, gave all of his labourers (about 30) a treat of a ‘real good Old English supper’ on 29 Jan at the Old English Gentleman, hosted by Mr and Mrs Whitehead, the owners. The Harston Brass Band was in attendance ‘playing in good style’. ‘Always pleasing to see a Master and his labourers mutually united’.

The pub has been used to hold meetings for various organisations, auctions, inquests and concerts, most notably on 22 Feb 1965 when The Tea Set performed who shortly after that re-named themselves Pink Floyd!

In 1993 publican Bob Brownlie asked Tolly Cobold to brew a new special cask beer called ‘Squarson’ and commissioned a Cambridge designer Margot Slade-Baker to design a new sign of the old squire that the pub was named after. There have been a number of different versions of the sign. Can anyone date these?

The pub closed in 2008. In May 2009 it opened as the Vujon Indian Restaurant which closed in 2016. The building stood empty and deteriorating until 2023 when it was demolished and the site was filled by 6 houses and 2 apartments.

The Old English Gentleman in the newspapers

1847 July 31 Cambridge Chronicle & Journal

For sale, by W. Rowton, at The Old English Gentleman, for Mr Peter Barker ‘who is declining farming’, of crops in Little Shelford, 3 acres 1 rood of wheat on Newton Road, lately Mrs Austin’s allotment, 13 acres barley, 7 acres tares, 4 acres of peas.

1847 July 31 Cambridge Chronicle & Journal

Inquest at The Od English Gentleman, on Henry Jarman, found dead in the middle of the road, verdict ‘died of a fit’.


Below is a list of landlords and approximate dates but it is not complete. Do you know anymore names and/or dates?

1847-      Joseph Jordan                      1918-27     Havelock & Beatrice Hammond

1851-      James Tuck                           1931-39    Cyril E John Turner

1853-     Thomas Marshall                  1947-        Frederick William Smart

1854-56 William Marshall                  1949-56    Charles Beadle

1860-61 Thomas Tuck                         1960s       Reg Tulley

1864-     George R Whitehead            1970s       Mike Bradford

1869-     James Northrop                    1983-86    Dave & June Lewin

1875-     Samuel Fenning                     1986-        Mike & Eileen Scott

1877-80 Robert Morley                        1990-        Mr James

1881-      John Covill                             1992-93     Mr Strachan

1882-      Mrs Covill                               1993-        Bob Brownlie

1893-      Sarah Ann Covill                    1990s        Helen Evans & Mick Ross

1908-11 Harry Covill                             2005           Ms H Turrell

2009           Became Vujon restaurant

2016           Closed

This page was added on 15/10/2015.

Comments about this page

  • Pleased to have found this!
    Sarah Covill was my 3xgt grandmother.
    Not a good report but fascinating for my family history.

    By Mark Sandford (24/06/2023)
  • 1893 April 7 Cambridge Independent Press
    Inquest at The Old English Gentle man (AJ Lyon, coroner) on Mary Ann Wilkes (52), found dead outside the pub, having tramped around the country with a hawker, Arthur Busby. They had both drunk 2-3 pints of beer at public houses on their way to Harston. Cause of death, ‘asphyxia accelerated by alcohol’. On 21/4 it was further reported that Sarah Ann Coville of The Old English Gentleman was charged with selling beer to the above, then turning them out at closing time, while they were drunk. She was fined 40s + costs.

    By Mike Mellor (30/06/2019)
  • My then husband Mike Bradford was the Licensee of the OEG and we lived there for 2/3 years during the 70s. I left during that time and Mike continued to run the pub with Gwen. Sadly Mike died in the 1990s. Some locals may remember Mike, always hail fellow well met. Some locals may even remember we had two goats, Gilbert and Sullivan. I live in rural Devon and rarely visit a pub but I still love goats!

    By Yvonne Hicken (formerly Bradford) (30/12/2016)

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